tv Asia Insight PBS May 17, 2017 6:30pm-7:01pm PDT
friendly. even the name of this capital means a boat of love. until recently, tonga was best known for its rugby player. and the care his matic queen, an international celebrity in the 1950s for her ever present smile. but there's big trouble in this poll tunisian paradise and the trouble is an explosion of diabetes and other known communicable diseases. today this nation of just over 100,000 people also known as the friendly island has a new
moniker. tonga tops the scales as the most obese country on earth. 90% of the adult population is either overweight or obese. now the government is fighting back. that the hospital, scores of pash ent patients have come to the specialize the diabetes clinic. they have they have deadly type 2 diabetes, a disease triggered by their obesity. among the patients is this 72-year-old eight tated. the mother of 12 lives two hours
boat ride away on tonga's eastern island. she's accompanied by her son, a 47-year-old fisherman and her daughter-in-law. she has been a diabetic for 20 years and two other members of her family also suffer from the disease. a small boil on the heel of her foot has turned to sepsis. >> translator: the infection has gone up to here and the rest of the foot will be removed to get rid of it. >> the medical team is checking her [ speaking foreign language ] >> how are you feeling about
your mom going into operation? >> translator: we have to remain strong for my mother. i don't want to lose her to this disease. but i'm happy and hopeful that today's treatment may free her from pain and give her some peace. >> you must love her very much, yes? >> translator: yes. >> this is another tragic victim of diabetes. the 60-year-old former teacher and nurse is limited to only 5% vision out of the corner of her
left eye. she lives with her family in the countryside, about 15 kilometers from the capital. >> and what caused your diabetes? [ speaking foreign language ] >> do you think you should have known better? >> yeah, i think. >> her severe visual impairment has put a tremendous strain on her family. her daughter in law, a 28-year-old teacher is her principal
>> we came from another time so we need to eat more healthy food now. >> so what type of food do you eat here? >> vegetable and -- more vegetable, every cooking and we're reducing the meat, especially beef and chicken so we need to eat more vegetable now from now on. it's healthy tong began people, they eat unhealthy food, so from now on we try to eat the healthy food.
>> her husband of 40 years retired telephone engineer is devastated by his wife's disability. >> i feel really bad as you of my wife's, sometimes i feel really bad why go through this is what i'm thinking sometimes. sometimes we pray, say a prayer to god and ask for help for my wife to -- she suffer very deeply suffer. >> this doctor are, a clinical pathologist is ceo of health in tonga's ministry of health. >> do you think they have the greatest challenge facing this nation at this moment in time? >> absolutely, it is. and why? because it's the major cause of death. it causes the largest amount of
at least 65 to 70% of all deaths are due to ncd. mostly heart diseases, but of course you have cancer, res spirer to diseases. as custodians of world being, i have a feeling there's been a failure in the system to protect the public, and i think that's a sad thing. ♪ >> food is quality and its overconsumption lies at the heart of tonga's dilemma. many tongans are quite literally eating themselves to death.
noncommunicable diseases such as heart and respiratory diseases have surged and life expectancy has dropped to 67 years from 72 years in the past half decade. many families have abandoned a traditional healthy diet of fish, food, and vegetables for imported junk food. globalization has led to an even greater consumption of cheap fatty food imports like tinned corned beef, industrial chicken, and mutton, a cut of sheep flat removed from bee neath the krikz had which is mostly imported from new zealand. mutton can be bought for 1 u.s. dollar while a key loaf chicken can be bought for $1.50. there's an display of fresh produce for sale at the local market, but much of it is
imported and paradoxically relatively the fish market is doing slow business. >> fish in this nation of 170 islands was worth a cheap and healthy source of food and protein. but today fish is costly. even local fisherman can't afford to eat his own catch. >> it's healthier, you know. there's no any chemicals in the fish. from the skin to the bone, you know, you can have it all, healthy, animal meat is poison, but they can't afford it.
the tong began people, it's too expensive for the 20 were 30, 40, 50 for a bag of fish, you know. they can't afford 20, because 20 you can buy a 3 kg of chicken with a $20 and plus a bag of noodle. they can't afford fish. i'm a fishman but i don't eat fish, you know. >> you know, in the olden days they used to hunt, they'd go and fount for their feed and they'd go fishing and bring the fish from the sea. but now they just go and shop there were you know. what is available out there to eat is not the healthiest choice. urban ny zation is something that's pretty new here and we're also aware that this is a normal trans transition for goop population, being exposed to new
environments, the new fast food and we have produce in the world today because of the technology of producing food so fast, so efficient producing a lot of salty, cheap food. >> in a typical tong began scene, men are harvesting yams. they are members of a church family outing who have gathered for a picnic. tongans love to seed and nothing embodies its culture like sharing food. it is said that poll tunisians have a special fat gene that helps them master the vast pacific ocean. in tonga, size truly matters.
size equals prestige, wealth, and status. so it's little surprise to learn that eight of the world's top ten most obese countries are in polla northeasterna. >> we eat the chicken. >> why are you using corn beef. >> because you got to eat. >> yeah. do you like corn beef? >> no. i like chic. >> you like fish? >> no. >> why do you not like fish? >> because i don't like it. i don't ♪
>> faced with a tsunami of obesity, tonga is now fighting back. this is part of the country's give me five campaign which encourages children to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. [ speaking foreign language ] [ speaking foreign language ] >> it has even produced a tv show for children. ♪ ♪
>> the show presented by children themselves teaches kids to go with healthy res hiss. [ speaking foreign language ] >> the give me five project is the brainchild of this man who was inspired by a similar project in new zealand. he is a prominent tong began businessman whose grandfather was japanese is determined to bring back healthy eating to his country. >> the passion for american culture and eating what's, you know, on the land is what drove me to see because of the problems we have gnaw adays with ncds, tonga was number one in obese sitsity in the world and it all comes down to our personal choices what we eetd and drink. that's what i realized we needed to tackle the problem with the
primary school kids because i firmly believe if we change the kids that the level we change a generation. that's why i think targeting the children is the key. it's difficult to change the adults in our generation. >> the give me five campaign is run under the umbrella of tonga health, spearheading tonga's battle against obesity. >> the very bottom of it. >> they recently organized a seminar for primary school head teachers to teach them highway to reach out and educate their pupils about healthy living and healthy it's the official opening of the new tonga health offices at the hospital founded in 2007 with
five staff, the health body now has 13 health experts and outreach workers. their mission is to promote an active and healthy tonga and to fight against the scourge of obesity and ncds. >> we always have in all occasions you see food and giving out food and having food as a gift or it's just transform how care you are, how love you are to that person that you give a lot of food. so i think those are the things that the more food you serve, the more love you have for that person. i'm not talking about cup of tea. it comes with a lot of kashz, a lot of fat and a lot of sugar and healthy foods. currently we are more focusing now on physical activity and healthy eating. so those where the food risk factors which really impact a
lot of our population, we are now promoting exercises. if they can do it as a group nay church hall dore it as a group in a walking group. >> it's called the happiness sports proper gram. it's designed to get office workers and their children out and exercising. >> it just started and, you know, it's really hard to change the cultures and the lifestyle. it won't happen overnight. >> and tonga health gives their full backing to the international sports day for peace, an annual event held downtown. school children from all over the island came to play bat mitten and other sports.
>> at least some people want to stay healthy in tonga and that say fun way do that. >> yeah. >> it is. >> in 2016, the tong began government imposed an additional excise tax. this so-called fat tax has been ridiculed in some quarters as gesture politics, but it also i will straits tonga's resolve to combat obesity and ncds. >> what do you think about this so-called fat tax? >> i think that the -- i think the intentions are right and it's only one part of attack the problem. it will make things a little bit more expensive, but it will create a level of thinking in people to say, okay, what do i do next it they are forced hopefully to make the right decisions.
>> tonga was the first poll tunisian nation to tack the the obesities and ncds. and awareness is it's sunday, the taw couple family like most tongans have been to church. they're looking order in to their sunday lunch being cooked by the eldest son in a traditional style uh ven. by local standards, this is a relatively modest oven of organic chicken and taro leaves. tongans are legendary for their feasting, pork, chicken, bread, fruit, yams, bananas, taro,
saturated with coconut milk, wraps in banana leaf were cooked and eat nebraska massive sporgss. today the notorious mutt ten flap and corn beef have been added to the fat and carbohydrate overload. but they have embraced a healthier eating lifestyle, unlike so many other tong began families. this couple is an kpn commander of tonga's navy and counselor to king paul the 6th. >> for us, the meal is something to bring all the families together on the sunday sab badge. in the old days, our fathers and forefathers used uma to unite
the whole family and we've kept that tradition up to now. although we have become richer now, and more developed, we still come together with the family on the sabbath. >> there's no obesity or obesity-related illnesses in the family. daughter is preg noont with her third child. >> i think we should go back and do the nowadays it's a good healthy food for me and my familiarly to have. i think it's a must, too much import, imported food, that's why ncds and obesities are happening here in tonga. too much imported food and canned food.
that's the most dangerous food because we just have it right away, we don't cook it, we don't cook it if we're hungry we just buy it from the shelf, eat it raw. >> around the world, an estimated 600 million people are obese. the number has doubled since 1980. in the last 33 years, not a single country has been able to reduce its rate of obesity. here in tonga, what do the frontline fighters in the war against obesity believe? >> this is a global problem, it's not only tonga being affected, we are aware of that and we are aware that it's not only within our nation to have a headache over the whole thing. we tried to look at how we can
willed -- build up the local agriculture where people can grow their own lean meat, chicken, have sheep and goats. so that is possible. so i think rather than looking at it as a real unsolvable problem, i think it presents an opportunity for us to move forward. >> the idea is if we make a difference and have an impact, the results can be replicated and distributed throughout pacific. i've already been asked by others in the pacific islands to talk to me about potentially showing or replicating this in their country. so the word's got out and i think it's only a positive thing. >> we always encourage people to be responsible for their own life. at the end of the day, it's their own responsibility to look after their health for the next ten to five years i wish tonga would be because that is our vision that tonga will be the
mother-in-law. in its ongoing battle against obesity, it could be said that tonga too is on the operating table. cynics may argue that it's too late for the wonderful people of the friendly island. that unless they can cure their addiction to overeating all the wrong kinds of food, they will forever be the most obese people on earth. and that big trouble will continue in paradise. she has survived her ordeal.